An Interview With Cotswold Outdoor Ambassador Pat Divilly




Can you remember your first adventure?

At 18 I headed to San Diego and moved into a mixed martial arts gym with intentions of becoming a cage fighter. I spent two summers in that gym, working, living and training 3 times a day. Everything was new and exciting, a world apart from life back in Ireland. I didn't have any money but loved the simplicity of life at the gym.


Fast forward to my mid-twenties, by which point I'd been a few years in business and had fallen into the busyness of 'adult life'. At that point I took my first real 'expedition adventure' to Peru and spent two weeks on a Salkantay trip to Machu Picchu. The simplicity of having no worries except for the back pack on your back to the realisation that we make life a lot more complicated and our lives a lot busier than it needs to be!


What makes an adventure? Eg. destination, kit, people, newness/the unexpected

To me, adventure is simply about stepping outside of your comfort zone and into environments where you're around new people, scenery, ideas and challenges. It's about freedom from things that may stress you or worry you at home and about broadening your horizons- trying new foods, sharing new experiences and creating lifelong memories.


An adventure doesn't have to look a certain way or tie in with anyone else's idea of adventure- it can just be an experience where you step away from your every day life for a few hours, days or weeks and step into the uncertainty and excitement of something new!



What inspired you to want to help others? Why is it important to you?

I started out in the fitness industry and came into the industry thinking I wanted to work with professional athletes. On an early internship I got to work with a wide range of individuals from scholarship athletes, to cardiac rehab patients to everyday people looking to lose some weight or increase their fitness. I quickly saw how much fulfilment came from seeing people achieve their goals.


The everyday person doing their push up would light up the same way an athlete might when they won a championship! My perspective changed from seeing fitness as being about 'sit ups, broccoli and being strong' to fitness being a means of showing people just how capable they were of setting and achieving goals. The confidence and energy I saw come alive in my clients inspired me to want to help people on an ongoing basis.


Later, when I started seeing some success in business it was important to me that supporting different causes and campaigns was an integral part of my business. Over the last few years we've been able to raise €250,000 for local charities and build a school in Nepal. It's nice for myself and my clients to see the difference we can make when we come together to achieve something big.  




What adventure, event or achievement are you most proud of?

In 2015 I became an ambassador for Cystic Fibrosis Ireland and wanted to raise some money and awareness for the organisation. At the time I owned a gym and saw that 'Tough Mudder' a 22km mud run and adventure race was coming to Ireland for the first time. I'd done a few similar runs and always found them a great way of motivating clients to step up their training and challenge themselves.


I started putting together a team which eventually became the worlds biggest team ever to do a mud run- culminating with 540+ people running to represent Cystic Fibrosis Ireland. We spread huge awareness and raised €165,000 for the charity- but what was the most exciting thing for me was seeing these 540+ people do something they'd never thought possible for themselves.


Adventure looks different to each individual but to me it's about pushing outside of your regular day to day life and challenging and stretching yourself. That day 540+ people went so far beyond what they thought possible as individuals and as a team. It redefined all of their thoughts around what was 'possible'.  



What has been your favourite adventure/event/achievement to date and why?

I would say Mount Elbrus in Russia as I found the summit night quite tough and really had to dig deep and push myself beyond what I'd done for other trips like Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, or treks in Nepal and Peru. We had a great group for our expedition in Russia with plenty of laughs, but I think I underestimated how tough the summit night would be. As with all challenges, there was great fulfilment in feeling like I had nothing left but pushing beyond that and reaching the top.   


What helps to keep you motivated?

I think I've just learnt from my life so far that I'm at my happiest when I'm being challenged. My fundamental belief is that the purpose of life is growth and that with growth comes happiness. For that reason I consistently look to stretch myself beyond what I'm currently capable of, whether that be in business, with my health or with adventures big or small!


I think it's important to set a goal that you don't yet know how to achieve. That way you have to become more along the journey. To me that's what it's about- who you become on the journey to the goal. That's what keeps me motivated.  


What piece of kit do you never leave for an adventure without?

I love my Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 OutDry Rucksack, my The North Face Men’s ThermoBall Hoodie and my Salomon Men’s Quest Prime GTX Boot. I'll always bring a pen and journal with me too for any longer trips, and a deck of playing cards!



What does the outdoors mean to you?

To me, the outdoors brings me clarity and a sense of peace. It takes me away from the busyness of technology and the modern world and helps me work through any sticking points in my thinking around certain goals or challenges I'm facing. It helps me de-clutter my mind and bring things back to basics, recognising where I'm getting caught up or overwhelmed unnecessarily.


When I started work as a personal trainer 12 years ago I was your standard 'rep counting' trainer who would stand beside a client in the commercial gym and tell them to “keep going”. It wasn't until I started teaching outdoor classes in groups on my local beach that I saw magic! I think being outdoors and being in a social dynamic helps ignite something in us that leads to more connection with ourselves, with nature and with others. Too many people are missing this connection in the modern world. 


Where will your next adventure take you?

In October I'll head to Ecuador for 3 weeks and look forward to climbing Chimborazo (6263 metres) and Antisana (5704 metres). I've been to Peru and Argentina but never anywhere else in South America so I'm excited to see a new place, meet new people and hopefully scale a few new mountains!



Who is your adventure inspiration/hero?

Noel Hanna or Jimmy Chin! Noel is an Irish mountaineer who's done the seven summits, recently climbed K2 and has been on countless other adventures. By chance I ended up sat next to him on a plane to Paris once. He was on a connecting flight for South Africa and I was headed for Argentina. I loved his laid back attitude and humility around the adventures he had. He's a guy with a real love for life who isn't doing anything for the applause but for the personal challenge and adventure.


I see Jimmy Chin in the same light. A talented photographer and film maker I just love his humility and attitude to life. How he blends his art with the physical demands of the climbs he goes on is incredible too! 



Tell us your greatest adventure story. Eg. making it to the top of an impossible climb, meeting someone on your journey, learning something new, staying with a unique community, being involved in an unusual event, helping someone achieve something they never thought they could – anecdotes welcome!

Two years ago I brought a group of 20 clients to Kilimanjaro as a means of a new physical challenge. I always encourage clients to have a goal to keep them focused. In the weight loss industry too many people set the goal of 'maintaining' their weight loss once they've had an initial loss. I'd rather see people work toward a new challenge which lets them forget about the scales and really embrace a new lifestyle. Kilimanjaro was that challenge for some of my clients who'd at this point challenged themselves with 5km's, 10km's, half marathons, mud runs and triathlons!


Three of the clients had been a little slower than the rest of the group for much of the trip and so the guide decided it would be a good idea for them to leave for the summit 2-3 hours earlier than the rest of the group rather than get left behind. I left with a guide and the 3 clients for the summit around 11pm after some tea and snacks and almost immediately two of the clients were struggling with stomach pain having to stop every few metres. 


Altitude was starting to effect everyone as well. Within a few hours, the group who'd left 3 hours after us had passed us. It was a particularly cold night and we were getting slapped harshly on the face by cold wind throughout the night. Despite the pain, the cold and the slow pace the clients persevered and eventually around 10 hours after setting off we all made it to the summit. There were tears of pride and happiness from the clients who'd had a hard time believing they'd made it. I was incredibly proud of them and inspired by their never quit attitude. That was a challenging night for everyone, but to fight through the pain and for them to spend so long pushing on in the cold was a credit to them.      


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