K-DRAMA FIRST LOOK: “Lovely Runner”

Having saved her life in the past, it is now our fangirl heroine’s turn to return the favor and protect her beloved idol from the tragic death awaiting him.

She is given an extraordinary chance to go back in time when they were still high schoolers. And hopefully this time our heroine’s earnest efforts will help shape their future differently.

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Bunny S. watches Lovely Runner on Viu

Opening Week Rating:

Lovely Runner

Lovely Runner Opening Week Story

“It is a good thing to be alive. The ones by your side you thank you for it.”

Our story opens in 2009 in a hospital room where our heroine, Im Sol, is lying in bed, unable to move her legs after a tragic accident. Sensing no hope in life, Sol attempts to commit suicide and is only stopped by her phone ringing. It is a radio show hosting rookie idol group Eclipse and calling people randomly to check if they are fans.

Sol has no interest in the show, Eclipse, or the gifts they are offering her. Mad, she lashes out at the broadcaster and tosses away the phone. Yet a voice comes through, saying that people around her must be thankful she is alive. If Sol hangs in there, there will come a day when she is happy again. Said person is our male lead, idol singer Ryu Seon-jae. And his words comfort Sol and help her let out all the pent-up emotions she was holding in.

“If it wasn’t for the stairs, I would have gotten it.”

Cut to 2022, where Sol has been a devoted fan of Seon-jae since their phone call. Her room is plastered with Seol-jae’s posters, and cardboard cutouts and fan merchandise are everywhere. Simply put, Sol has been living basically fangirling over Seol-jae all this time.

It is Christmas Eve, which also marks Eclipse’s first concert in 5 years. Sol couldn’t be more excited about finally seeing her idol. But her day goes a bit awry. To start with, just 2 hours before the concert, she receives a call about an interview for an internship she applied for, only to be rejected without being interviewed because the company is in a two-story building without an elevator. For real!

Okay. Let’s maintain our optimism. Sol brushes it off and heads to the concert, only to get stuck in a traffic jam and arrive late. Worse, she lost her ticket and couldn’t make it through. Who cares? Sol can still listen to Seon-jae from afar and cheer for him.

“I’ve been a fan since your debut, actually. I never strayed.”

To top it all, Sol gets stuck in the snow after the battery of her wheelchair dies. Luckily, for Sol, a van happens to be passing by, and a guy holding an umbrella approaches her, offering help. And it is none other than Seon-jae himself. Sol might have missed the concert, yet she met Seon-jae in person. And he is as sweet as he was in the past. Speak of lucky days. Seon-jae offers to give Sol a ride but Sol’s friend, Lee Hyun-joo shows up and ruins the moment. Speak of bad timing.

Unluckily, Sol’s excitement about meeting her idol is cut short by the devastating news of Seon-jae jumping off his hotel room, which might not be his first suicide attempt, given the pills filling his room and his sudden decision to retire from the entertainment industry not just take a break.


“It must have been so hard for you to go through this alone.”

Sol rushes over to see him, but it is already too late. Seon-jae has passed away. What? How can this happen when he was alive and well a few hours ago? In a work of magic, time stops and Sol is transported back to 2008, where she is still a high school senior, and her accident hasn’t happened yet. But who cares about studying now? Sol has to rush over and see her idol, who happens to be a student at the school across from hers.

Screaming his name, Sol barges in and pulls Seol-jae into a hug. Wait, is this a dream? If not, is Sol dead? Well. As long as Sol can be with Seol-jae, it doesn’t matter, even if they go to the underworld together. Dear Sol, it is neither a dream nor you are dead. You have time-traveled to the past.

“Did it have to be yesterday? I should have come a day earlier.”

Skipping school, Sol heads to watch Seon-jae training. She is lucky to have her idol so close, right? Yet, noticing smoke coming through the window, Sol goes after some delinquent students. How can they smoke near the gym? Don’t they know how harmful second-hand smoke is for athletes?

But instead of protecting Seon-jae, Sol ends up getting caught with the cigarette packet. Getting mistaken for a smoker and punished despite doing nothing is one thing. But the embarrassment of having Seon-jae see her like this sure hits differently. Ironically, all Sol’s attempts to improve her image before Seon-jae drive him away further.

Adding to Sol’s worries the day she time-traveled happened to be one day after she confessed her love to another guy, her former crush, Kim Tae-sung. Hearing about it, Seon-jae gets a bit jealous. And to make matters more complicated Tae-sung seems to take an interest in this new Sol from the future.

“Why can’t you say anything? Do you think all these behaviors of yours are normal?”

Sol might have the privilege of knowing the future, but she isn’t allowed to share that intel with anyone. Try as she might, whenever Sol brings up matters from the future, time stops. So, if she wishes to stop Seon-jae from participating in his next competition, she had better rack her brain and come up with something else other than telling Seon-jae he will injure his shoulder again if he competes and quit swimming.

Of all things, Sol chooses to pretend to be a monk and claim a water ghost is stuck to Seon-jae. (This girl’s creativity is on another level.) Definitely, Seon-jae doesn’t buy it at first but when Sol mentions the scar on his sole, Seon-jae gets convinced. Mission accomplished, right? Of course not. Sol gets caught red-handed and her mission only gets harder.

It gets worse when Sol gets mistaken for a thief trying to steal Seon-jae’s swim pants. It broke my heart watching Seon-jae lash out at Sol. Still, I can’t blame him either for being frustrated since he has no memories of anything and suddenly a strange girl keeps telling him nonsensical things and vowing to protect him. Having realized his mistake, Seon-jae heads to apologize to Sol. Good thing he did because he arrives in the nick of time to save her from getting into an accident.

Lovely Runner Opening Week Musings

What an entertaining ride. I appreciate the drama’s pace, getting the setup out of the way quickly while also not rushing things. Sol’s panic when crossing the road points to a car accident. But the scar on her mother’s hand makes me suspect there has been a fire as well.

Through a blurry flashback, we see someone rushing over to save Seol. But given how her mom turned pale when Sol brought up that she wants to thank her savior, there is a big possibility that person died while rescuing Sol. K-dramas are fond of backstories. So, I guess the savior is either Seon-jae or Tae-sung. And if the theory of the savior passing away is true, then the possibility of it being Tae-sung is more likely.

We also learn that Sol and Seon-jae met in the original timeline as high schoolers too since they lived across from each other. Moreover, a photo of Seon-jae and Sol found in Seon-jae’s hotel room suggests that they had a thing in the past.

But how could Sol not recognize Seon-jae despite being a fangirl for this long? Did she perhaps lose some of her memories from before the accident? Wait. Does it mean Seon-jae got out of the van that night because he recognized Sol, and it was the same during the radio show? Did he take his life because he was reminded of the past?

We knew there was a meaning behind the sentimental look in Seon-jae’s eyes when Sol gave him candy. It was the same one she gave him the first time they met. Also, how he mentioned it would rain the next day during the phone call to convince Sol to continue living and covered her with his umbrella when Sol went to see him at school. It was raining the first time they met as well and Sol gave him her umbrella. Rain seems to hold a deep meaning in this story.

Anyway, the time Sol barged into the swimming arena wasn’t the first time Seon-jae met her. And since their first encounter, Seon-jae started to take an interest in Sol and stole glances at her discreetly. He might pretend to be nonchalant now, but he has already fallen for her. It is a pity that Sol can’t remember anything as she was busy crushing on Tae-sung at that time.

Sol is a sweet soul. And Kim Hye-yoon is nailing her role. Be it throwing a tantrum, fangirling over Seon-jae, following him around to protect him, or crying her eyes out when Seon-jae scolds her. I can’t even imagine someone else in this role. Our girl is made for this role.

  • Life has been as tough for the 19-year-old Seon-jae as it was for him as an adult. Despite getting surgery recently, Seon-jae pushes himself so hard to make his father proud. While I guess Father would have stopped Seon-jae had he known his condition, Sol’s words about how much he has struggled in life touched Seon-jae’s heart a great deal.

With likable characters, solid writing, and an interesting mystery, I am excited to tag along on Sol and Seon-jae’s journey. Also, the height difference makes the romance more adorable. Whatever is in store for our leads, let’s hope they face it bravely together and get their happy ending against all the odds.

Bask into an amusing romantic ride with Seon-jae and Seol in Lovely Runner! International fans can watch the series on Viu!

Photos and Videos: tvN Drama