Until now, the title “Running Man” made me think of an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie from 1987. But apparently the title also refers to a South Korean gameshow that has been successfully exported to China. The show seems to be very popular, because when my colleagues invited me to a team building weekend, they named the event „Running mediaman“.
The rules are simple enough: Each player wears a t-shirt with their team’s color – orange and green in our case. The players name is attached to the back with Velcro. Each team tries to rip off the opposing players’ nametags, and players without nametags are out. The show makes it slightly more complicated, with extra missions and tricks like traitors within teams. We play the easier version – I think primarily due to my language barrier.
The game took place on Chongming Island north of Shanghai. We met at a restaurant there the night before. In addition to some dishes I already knew from having lunch close to our office, we were served the traditional Pidan eggs (“Century Eggs“) and jellyfish heads. The eggs tasted a bit strong, and the jellyfish tasted surprisingly like vegetables.
After dinner we went to our hotel. As we got there, my Chinese colleagues tell me that the hotel is not supposed to take foreigners. Chinese hotels need a special license to do so, which the selected house didn’t have. Since nobody can come up with a plan to get me in unnoticed, we just charged for the rooms as a big group with me in the middle. It worked.
The venue for our Running Man game is a mixture of a nature reserve and a theme park. In between wide greens and bamboo forests sit a few attractions, like a go-kart track.
In contrast to the gigantic shopping malls and brand-temples of Shanghai, the park has a communist aura. Between the bamboo trees I notice children climbing around on a relic from the 1950s: the wing of a rusty Mig-15 fighter jet.
We come together on a small island which will define the boundaries of our game. After a chaotic briefing, of which I don’t understand a single word, both teams run off into the thickets. Nametag season is open and the hunt has begun!
Both groups rustle through the bamboo brush, separating and re-uniting, constantly on the lookout for the nametags of those who have ventured too far ahead or got isolated from their teammates some other way. The whole spectacle feels somewhat like an excursion of 9th graders. But we’re also driven professionals: both teams fiercely protect their nametags.
After multiple rounds, both teams have been thinned, but there is no clear winner. We decide to pitch the two groups against each other in “sudden death.” After some back and forth, Team Orange claims the win. But my MVP is content manager Max from Team Green. He held on to his nametag by a thread, even after his opponents had almost pulled half his shirt off his body.