With apologies to Charles Dickens: I had the best of runs. I had the worst of runs.

First, the worst.

On the last Saturday of September, I ran 15 miles.

For those who have asked: GOOD LORD NO I AM NOT TRAINING FOR A MARATHON. While I never say never, I have zero plans to take on another 26.2 at any point in the foreseeable future. Marathons are so much work and I have enough to do.

What I do like to do, however, is over-run 13 miles as many times as I can during a half-marathon training cycle. That way, when my brain starts panicking at mile 8 of the half and doing its best work to convince me I’m about to die, I can trust my legs to stay attached for an even longer distance than the finish line. Brains can do great things, mind, but they can also be total jerks.

Two women in front of yellow bridge and river

This is from the best of times, which was a run in Pittsburgh this weekend. I took zero pictures during my 15 mile death slog. You are welcome.

I have another 15 coming up this Saturday. My biggest hope is that it goes better than the last one did.

The weather is looking better for this Saturday’s run. During my first 15 miler this training cycle, the morning started out at a balmy 55. When I was done three hours later, it was 75 degrees. Voldesun was high in the clear blue sky. While that makes for an awesomely autumnal day, it made the last five miles so very warm.

Which isn’t to say that the first ten weren’t also warm, so much so that I texted my beloved spouse to leave a fresh bottle of ice water on our front stoop so that I could refill my empty one. I usually avoid running by my house on long runs because it is far too tempting to stop in to use the bathroom, grab a snack, and marathon 26.2 episodes of the Great British Baking Show.

Instead, I pulled up my big girl panties, refilled my bottle, and continued my long, long, long run. The run itself had fallen apart long before my mile ten hydration stop. It started okay. Admittedly, I wasn’t really in the mood for a scamper around greater Oneonta but I’d talked myself into it. Once I stopped looking at my watch and lamenting how much farther I had to go, the first third was adequate. The second third was where the wheels came off. I swear the temperature went up by 20 degrees in the span of 15 minutes. All of the cloud cover burned off. While we have plenty of trees, every single freaking one of them was at the wrong angle to provide any shade. I   kept rerouting in the hope that I could find some cover. I only found more sun.

The last five I simply did my best to propel myself forward. I slowed down so much that my husband did something he almost never does when I’m out on a run: he texted to make sure I wasn’t dead. By then, my only goal was to make it to 15 miles before bursting into tears. At that, I succeeded. I managed to get home, get a shower, and get some NUUN before I fell into a pit of despair. Running keeps you humble.

This Saturday, however, I had the best of runs.

Given how terrible my last long run was, my only hope for Saturday’s nine was that they wouldn’t be terrible. Instead, it was a delight.

Two women in running gear in front of a river.

This is Brandy. We had a blast.

Some of my joy sprang from running in Pittsburgh, my hometown. The four of us — two teenager, my husband, and me — drove the seven hours across PA for my cousin’s 60th birthday party. I’m still not sure how we’ve managed to get so old but that is a discussion for a different day.

I slapped together a loose plan to jump onto the Three Rivers Heritage Trail at Millvale on Saturday morning and see how it all worked out. But while we were on the road, Pittsburgh BAMR Brandy, with whom I spent some quality expo booth time a few years ago, texted to see if I wanted to meet up. She sweetened the deal even further. The Steel City Road Runners hold weekly group runs. So we jumped into the eight miler and tacked on an extra mile at the end.

The weather was perfection. The route — along the Allegheny river, across the bridge into Lawrenceville, through the Strip District, across the bridge back to the North Side, then up past the Science Center and back — hit the highlights of what makes the ‘burgh beautiful. And the conversation, of course, was divine.

Big sandwich

My kids are finally old enough to experience Primanti Brothers. I only need one of these every 15-20 years — but it was a perfect post-run lunch.

On the drive back to the hotel, I thought about these two runs. I will always be amazed by how terrible a run can be and how wonderful. I’m also certain that you can’t have one experience without the other.

What have been your best and worst runs lately?