Running Girls. Girls. Running. In scenic Korea. It’ll be a lot of Eat,
Pray, Run, Love, ostensibly with no chance of exploitation or sensationalism, or so we hope. As a moderate consumer of Korean Variety programming I’m well aware of the tricks producers (and particularly MNet) can pull tin the name of ratings. But if I had to handicap it, I’d put the odds of there being a shit show at around 10:1.
Part of my optimism lies in the solid cast assembled for the show. EXID Hani is a proven variety all-star, with a strong track record over fawning over her adorable junior idols. Sunmi’s stock as a solo artist is sky high, and her personal channel already has a lot of fitness content. Chungha and Oh My Girl‘s YooA are known as athletic dancers with an exhaustive practice regimen. LOONA main vocal Chuu being here is quite the surprise, but congrats to her for parlaying her endless effusive positivity into some extra variety play.
Previews suggest that this will be a fairly ambient series focused on the hardship of celebrity and the power of female bonding, wrapped in shiny, wide-angle drone footage of coastal Korea. Kind of like Hyori’s Bed and Breakfast but bootstrapped to a FitBit. Maybe the show will make me like running again, which I hate so so much. I can ride a bicycle up a mountain for 2 hours but 15 minutes of jogging and I’m bored to death. Hopefully Chuu can show me the error of my ways.
The 1st episode starts with some assorted footage of the girls calling each other, talking to the show producers, talking about themselves. “Ohhh who could it be?”, the girls wonder aloud as they ask guess-who type questions to their mysterious conversation partners (They know who they are). Through montage the show positions Hani as the running guru which is all well and good. I am excited by the promises of the girls getting enough sleep, that seems like a premium feature of the trip.
Seosan is as beautiful as advertised; South Korea’s natural scenery outside of Seoul is incredibly underrated. The house seems insanely gorgeous as well, but knowing Mnet there is still probably ample plywood involved. As the girls roll up to the house one by one, they each self-narrate just how awkward-yet-excited they are. The girls decide to use real names. There will be a lot of “dressing down” in this show.
Chuu apologizes via phone call that her schedule will make her late. She’ll meet up with them at the first running locale. The rest of the cast doesn’t know it’s Chuu, but they definitely know it’s Chuu, what with the high pitched squealing and all.
The girls receive their writing diaries. The mental health benefit of running will most likely be heavily featured, and the practice of keeping a running diary can really enhance those effects. Again, celebrity hardship, friendship and aforementioned concerns of Korean Pop idols will most likely be addressed. A leader is decided (Hani, duh) and then the show previews where they’ll be running (and eating). Roll Seosan’s tourism trailer here. Beef village though (Hi Mimi).
The girls unpack their bags. Sunmi brought booze, a giant jar of honey, and snacks. Hani brought… nothing. Chungha is given a segment where she dramatically decides to take some of her makeup off. You know, dressing down and all that. A Korean version of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” plays because of course it does.
The girls decide to do a warm-up run near the house, which is where they’ll rendezvous with Chuu. From the first moment Chuu interacts with the members, it’s apparent she’ll be the show’s hard carry for clip content.
The rest of the members basically fall over themselves at the sight of her aegyo antics. After some more flashbacks to the staged phone calls, the Girls finally become Running Girls, beginning their first jog.
It’s nice to have a variety of skill levels represented here, and how they emphasize pace. These are things I wished I had kept better track of when I was learning to jog long distances. It’s already apparent that the active idols like Chungha are harboring various nicks and bruises from their brutal daily practice routines, and it’s very cool to see the show give them their space for that. Like they say, if you can’t run and have a conversation at the same time, you’re running too hard. Color me impressed.
Now it’s mukbang time. The girls split up to go get various ingredients for dinner including some incredible looking seafood baeksuk. Back at the house, they all take turns fumbling through dinner prep. It soon becomes obvious that Sunmi is the most capable one here in this respect. Hani gets an opportunity to show off some good grill faces. Welcome back Hani.
After dinner, the girls get ready for bed and write in their running diaries. Chungha talks about the endless loop of staying busy and dealing with anxiety, the fear of stopping. The pressures of being an idol and how wanting a break is showing weakness. Channeling the pain into more art and thus more work. The rest of the girls relate, and then the show sticks the landing by tying it back into the idea of keeping pace. Clever!
Episode 2 will see the girls get even closer and some secrets revealed.