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I became a RunAway fan four years ago, while OGN APEX was in its heyday. It was hard not to be, once you laid eyes on them and their ridiculous pink sweaters — so out of place amidst the tournament’s polished aesthetic. Their journey was a special one. A ragtag team of underdogs, banding together to take on the world with the power of friendship? It couldn’t have been better if you’d scripted it.

It was RunAway that inspired me to begin writing about esports in the first place. Something about their story made me want to clamber to the top of a building and shout it from the rooftop. So I did. And, along the way, I fell in love with esports writing. I became inspired to seek out all the best stories in Overwatch and share them with the world, so that they might touch people in the same way that RunAway’s story had touched me.

Now RunAway is gone and I’ve been thinking about everything that they’ve left me with. They changed my life, even though all I did was watch them from afar. There was just something about RunAway, I suppose, that ignited their legacy.

Runaway with their tournament win trophy as part of their legacy
RunAway hoist the trophy after their first tournament win. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

RunAway built a legacy

Of everyone who’s ever played in the Overwatch League, nineteen of them once passed through RunAway. Most notably, the Vancouver Titans signed all of RunAway in 2019. That roster broke numerous records and made it to the grand finals. The players that replaced them on RunAway, not to be outdone, became the first South Korean team ever to have a perfect season. They won their first season of Contenders Korea without dropping a single match.

Team owners Yoon “Runner” Dae-hoon and Lee “Flowervin” Hyun-ah have always been held in high regard for their ability to scout out promising talent. They had the undeniable skill of molding this potential into a championship caliber team. The original RunAway was a motley crew of ladder stars. They didn’t have the resources for a team house so they all played from home or from internet cafes. And yet, some kind of magic carried them through. They inexplicably made it to the grand finals of APEX Season 2. It was the start of RunAway’s legacy.

That magic that seemed to belong to RunAway, and RunAway alone, was what made them so appealing to fans and players alike.

“I think every aspiring player wanted to join RunAway,” Commentator Wolf “Wolf” Schröder, who casted RunAway in APEX and Contenders Korea for many years, said. “When you call a player and ask if they’re interested in trying out for RunAway, everyone’s going to say yes.”

Lee “LeeJaeGon” Jae-gon was part of the wildly successful second generation of RunAway. He had been playing in the Chinese and Pacific regions before that. Not a lot of people took notice of him until the end of 2018, when he received offers from various teams. But he had his eyes set on one in particular.

Leejaegon was part of RunAway's legacy
Leejaegon was part of the second generation of RunAway. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

“Several Contenders teams had offered me a spot, but I felt that I would rather apply for open tryouts for RunAway,” LeeJaeGon said. “The reason I declined actual offers just for a tryout is because RunAway was a very famous team with a lot of fans. I thought that playing with them would give me the best chance to head to the Overwatch League.”

Now, LeeJaeGon plays for the Shanghai Dragons. Widely regarded as one of the best main supports in the league, he is one of many players who made their name on RunAway before joining the Overwatch League. Florida Mayhem’s star damage player Kim “Yaki” Jun-ki had struggled to find any success on his previous teams, despite being lauded for his individual skill. Then, he joined RunAway’s rising legacy and finally won his first championship.

“I was in [XL2 Academy] but after our season ended, my prospects hadn’t really changed,” Yaki said. “But I heard that RunAway wanted me, so I thought that if I joined them, we could win the season. RunAway gave me my first win, and I believe I was able to get into the Overwatch League largely thanks to them.”

It wasn’t just players that RunAway sent to the Overwatch League. Mayhem head coach Kim “KuKi” Dae-kuk got his start as a coach in RunAway. At the time he joined, he’d recently retired from pro play and was looking into coaching.

“I wanted to get into coaching but I’d retired mid-season. I was waiting for opportunities in the next season,” KuKi said. “But during that timeframe, Runner reached out to me asking if I was interested. I wanted to learn from him, so I joined the team. In RunAway, there was a lot of emphasis placed on the team’s atmosphere. Winning’s great, and performing well is important, but they always emphasized keeping the atmosphere comfortable and happy for the team.”

Much of the team’s appeal came from Runner and Flowervin’s strong leadership, and the environment they fostered within the team. Often you’ll hear people say that RunAway wasn’t just a team; they were a family. As cliché as that may sound, it wasn’t too far from the truth. Runner and Flowervin cared about their players and made sure they cared about one another.

“Before I met Runner and Flowervin in person and spoke to them, I wondered if this would be one of those stories where it seems like they’re nice but behind the scenes they’re really not,” Wolf said. “But I’ve met them several times and they’re some of the kindest people I’ve ever interacted with. It just feels almost like a fairytale.”

RunAway touched many lives during the four years that they built their legacy. Runner and Flowervin turned several players from rookies to bona fide stars. And then, there were those who merely watched, commentated or wrote about them but still feel a debt to them, even now.

“If we hadn’t casted their [2018 Contenders Season 2] finals, we probably wouldn’t have become as popular as we did,” Seth “Achilios” King, League Commentator said, referring to himself and Wolf. “Maybe we wouldn’t have joined the Overwatch League in Season 2. So RunAway very much inadvertently assisted us in that regard. And they gave us some of the best moments Overwatch has ever seen. Without them, who knows what the landscape would look like?”

The team's legacy with two generations of RunAway players.
Two generations of RunAway players. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment

Thank you RunAway

When I look back on my time as a fan of RunAway, many things come to mind. It’s hard to even grasp the enormity of everything they did for me without their meaning to.

There will never be a team quite like RunAway again, but that’s okay. Their impact will be felt for years to come. They inspired countless people, including myself, to chase their dreams; to believe that some stories do have happy endings. RunAway’s story might end here but their legacy does not. And while they were around, there was plenty of happiness.

That, at least, is enough.

KuKi (Florida Mayhem): When you look at the history of pro Overwatch, RunAway is one of those names that can never be left out of the conversation. They had a huge impact on the scene. They had a huge impact on the overall history. And the amount of players they helped to make it big has to be mentioned. They’ll certainly remain in people’s memories for a very long time.

Wolf: [To RunAway] I’d like to say thank you so much, for all your impact in the years of my life that were changed by you having such a great team, and the really memorable moments you gave Overwatch over the years. Not just for me, but for all the fans. Thank you.

Achilios: You can trace so much back to that first moment when they stepped on stage with their pink sweaters. And the first time that they danced, and the first time a GIF of RunAway got posted on Reddit. It all has a butterfly effect that touches everything in the scene. Without them, I don’t know what it would look like, but I’m happy that we don’t have to live in that reality.

Kim “Slime” Sung-jun (Florida Mayhem): To Runner and Flowervin: Thank you for letting me join a good team and allowing me to get to know good people. I’ve grown so much as a person thanks to this opportunity. I’d like to thank you so much, and no matter what you guys decide to do further down the line, I wish you all the success in it.

LeeJaeGon (Shanghai Dragons): Runner and Flowervin have been running Runaway for a couple of years now. They’ve worked really hard, and I’m really grateful that they were able to give the team so many good memories and great experiences. I hope they succeed in whatever they do in the future. And, if we happen to meet again in the future through whatever circumstances, I hope that it’ll be a good opportunity for all of us as well.

Yaki (Florida Mayhem): RunAway gave me my first win. But the thing that Runner and Flowervin did the most for us was that they cared for us a lot. They always took really good care of us. There were barely any hiccups while I was with them. So I’d really like to thank them and wish them the best, whatever they decide to embark on in the future.

Gang “Gangnamjin” Nam-jin (Florida Mayhem): RunAway was my first team. Right from the start, I was able to be in a really good team with really good people in it. And I’m going to keep working really hard so that from here on out, whenever I do well, I also contribute to RunAway’s legacy. They’ll say, “He’s good because he came from RunAway.”

Gangnamjin is proud to be part of RunAway's legacy
RunAway was Gangnamjin’s first team. | Provided by Blizzard Entertainment