Posted on: 13 March 2024

Mikael Lindnord – Adventure Racer & Hollywood Hero


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Mikael is played by Mark Wahlberg in the movie 'Arthur the King' and though he didn’t get to be a World Champion he’s still going to be the most famous adventure racer in the world!

Mikael Lindnord was an elite adventure racer. The sport was his all-consuming passion and he dreamed of winning the Adventure Racing World Championship. Not all dreams come true, and sometimes things you could never dream of happen instead.

Mikael felt the Huairasinchi race in Ecuador in 2014 was his last shot at the World title, but it didn’t work out like that. Team Peak Performance finished in 12th place and were followed over the line by a determined street dog they named Arthur. He’d trailed them for hundreds of kilometres through thick jungles and mangrove swamps and won a place in Mikael’s heart.

Arthur was adopted and taken home to Sweden, and the story was picked up by the world’s media, and then became the subject of the best-selling book, “Arthur, the Dog who Crossed a Jungle to Find a Home”. Now that story is about to appear on cinema screens around the world in the Hollywood movie “Arthur the King”.

Mikael is played by Mark Wahlberg and though he didn’t get to be a World Champion he’s still going to be the most famous adventure racer in the world!

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I am an Adventure Racer!

The sport of Adventure Racing captured Mikael’s attention when he realised from his experience as an Arctic Ranger that “my talent is to never give up”.

Adventure racing combines the outdoor sports of trekking/trail running, mountain biking, orienteering and paddling (in kayaks, canoes and rafts) into one endurance competition. Elite level expedition races last 4-10 days and take place in the most remote wilderness areas and extreme climates. Teams of 4 (always mixed gender) compete together and navigate through the course, racing non-stop, and often only sleeping a few hours during a whole race.

“I have a never give up mentality,” said Mikael, and when I did my first race in 1997 it changed my life. I was hooked and thought ‘This is it’!” I really loved the hardship and mastering so many skills.

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“I was an adventure racer almost 20 years of my life and visited 60 countries, going into the wilderness no one else ever sees. We dealt with uncertainty and had to figure things out on our own. The people I met gave me hope for humanity and I have no regrets. Adventure racing is so much more than a sport; it’s a way of life.”

Mikael was successful enough to race as a sponsored pro for 6 or 7 years, competing in Expedition races in the Adventure Racing World Series with Reebok Adventure, Team AXA and then Peak Performance. His best World Championship placing was 5th in 2011 in Tasmania, when the team lost a sprint finish on bikes by seconds - after 4 days of non-stop racing! (In that team he was racing with John Karlsson, who led the Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team to a second world title in South Africa last year.)

An Adventure Race Director

Not content with full time racing Mikael also became a Race Director, organising the High Coast 600, then the Adventure Racing World Series Qualifier ‘Explore Sweden.”

His courses were always technical, usually very long and often innovative, and soon attracted teams from all over the world. The first Explore Sweden in 2004 was one of the most innovative races of all time – it was the Airborne Expedition Race!

The race took place in 3 locations to show off the very best of Sweden and teams were transported between them by a specially chartered plane. When they arrived they didn’t know where the 3 locations would be and each location was only revealed when the plane took off for the next stage. Any team who were too slow on the first two stages missed the plane, and the rest of the race!

The race was a reflection of Lindnord’s larger-than-life personality and determination to push boundaries and he said at the time, “To put all this together we have more than 150 volunteers, including medics and mountain guides, working at checkpoints around the course. It's one of the biggest logistical challenges any Race Director has ever faced.“

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In 2006 Explore Sweden was the Adventure Racing World Championship, which he directed with his wife, Helena. The course ran through the high country of Northern Sweden and into Norway and is still regarded as one of the best World Championships ever.

Adventure Racing website SleepMonsters.com described it as “everything an adventure racer could dream of: kayak paddling in the North Atlantic alongside whales, glacier trekking on some of the biggest glaciers in Europe, challenging navigation, and some thrilling, wet-and-wild canyoneering.”

The last Explore Sweden was ‘The Monster” and was a spectacular course through vast forests, on rivers and lakes, and across the high alpine mountains with a total distance of 1069 kilometers! It’s still the longest ever race in the Adventure Racing World Series.

Dog Lover and Campaigner

Although Mikael competed in the 2015 Adventure Racing World Championship in Brazil, his racing days and future life course were determined by his encounter with Arthur in the jungle of Ecuador.

The media interest in Arthur’s story was intense and the book became a worldwide best seller. It also inspired Mikael and others to work towards better treatment of dogs in Ecuador. Arthur was in bad shape when he joined Team Peak Performance; injured, infected and he had clearly been badly mistreated, as so many street dogs are around the world.

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After the publicity surrounding the story ‘The Arthur Foundation’ was established and was instrumental in promoting the LOBA law (Organic Law of Animal Welfare) in Ecuador which applied animal welfare standards nationwide and aimed to eliminate violence and promote empathy towards animals.

Mikael and his family hope to return to Ecuador in November when the Huairasinchi race will once again host the Adventure Racing World Championship, and there are plans to establish a memorial to Arthur, who sadly died in 2020, 6 weeks before filming of his story began.

AR World Series Hall of Fame

Mikael has returned to the last two AR World Championships (in Paraguay and South Africa) directing a media team following the Swedish Armed Forces Adventure Team, led by his old team mate John Karlsson.

At the 2023 World Championship in South Africa he was inducted into the ARWS Hall of Fame, an accolade he holds in high regard. “It was definitely a highlight for me to be in the Hall of Fame and I am very proud and grateful to share this with a lot of very good endurance athletes.”

Hollywood Hero

That talent “to never give up” has served Mikael well in life. He never gave up on Arthur and he never gave up on his dream to get the story into Hollywood and onto cinema screens.

The movie changed production companies and lead roles before finally being picked up by Lionsgate with Mark Wahlberg in the lead role, backed by an A-list cast. Even then the movie had to be shot under tight restrictions due to Covid and for a time it was uncertain shooting could go ahead.

Wahlberg was inspired by the true story and his renowned fitness made him a perfect fit for an adventure racer, in what he describes as his “toughest shoot ever”.

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“I wanted the movie to look real,” said Lindnord, “and I trained the actors so they moved and acted like adventure racers. We did it for real.” When Wahlberg injured himself on the first day of shooting Mikael said, “I think something happened that day, I saw fear in everyone’s eyes on the film set ... hundreds of people were ready to shutdown the production and go home when we barely had started.

“Then I looked in to Mark’s eyes, but I didn’t see fear… I saw something different, something I have seen only a couple of times throughout my career in my team mates eyes when we really had to fight hard to survive.

“Call it fire, or willpower, or that “whatever it takes” attitude NFL coaches are talking about.

“Despite all odds we finished shooting Arthur the King two mounts later and the fire I saw that day came back many times during the filming. I got to see on front row why so many people love Mark’s movies.”

The film premieres in the USA on March 15th and will show Mikael and Arthur’s story to a global audience and a big part of that story will be unique sport of adventure racing and the work of the Adventure Racing World Series.

Find out more at:

https://www.lindnord.se/ & https://www.instagram.com/mikaellindnord/
http://www.arthurfoundation.se/
https://www.arthurtheking.movie/
www.arwc2024 (Huairasinchi - Ecuador)


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