As a teenager, Fulton County sheriff ran Peachtree Road Race backward

Now 56, Patrick Labat has been running it in the right direction since the early 1990s.
Sheriff Patrick Labat talks at an editorial board meeting in Atlanta on Wednesday, February 21, 2024. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Sheriff Patrick Labat talks at an editorial board meeting in Atlanta on Wednesday, February 21, 2024. (Steve Schaefer/steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

One Fourth of July as a teenager, with no idea how to register for the AJC Peachtree Road Race, Patrick Labat and some friends ran the course backward to the start.

Now 56, the Fulton County sheriff is more aware of the need for both course security and event registration; he participated in the race for the first time officially in the early 1990s and hasn’t missed many since, carefully saving his bib numbers. He finally persuaded his wife, Jacki, to try it about seven years ago, and now she runs/walks it as well. Born and raised in Atlanta, Sheriff Labat is a graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and Clark Atlanta University and says of the Peachtree: “Each and every year, it gets better.”

Q: Do you have a favorite memory of running the Peachtree?

A: One race, I’m getting ready to hit Cardiac Hill and Arthur Blank comes running past me. I say to myself, “I’m not going to let Arthur Blank beat me.’” And so I continued to push and push and push. And that’s one thing that makes the race so special: Whether you’re the mayor or on the City Council or Arthur Blank or anyone from anywhere in the world, you’re all in this together.

Fulton County Sherriff Patrick Labat (left) has run the AJC Peachtree Road Race nearly every year since the early 1990s. He's seen here with his wife Jacki. Photo courtesy of the Fulton County Sherrif's Office

Credit: Courtesy of Patrick Labat

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Credit: Courtesy of Patrick Labat

Q: Did you beat Mr. Blank?

A: I absolutely did. To this day he didn’t know it was happening.

Q: Did being elected sheriff in 2021 change your relationship to the Peachtree?

A: I’ve gone from being a young adult running the race, kind of carefree, to sheriff of the largest county in the state, understanding the idiosyncrasies and the nuances of helping provide safety and security for thousands of people. For me, that’s extra special. I’m very intentional that as I see young officers along the course I make sure I speak to them. That’s exciting, to take that moment in time and say thank you. It doesn’t matter [which agency they represent]; there are so many people who step into that space to keep us safe. It’s pretty huge.

Q: What does your running routine look like?

A: I try to run/walk at least 5-6 times a week, between 3 and 5 miles a day. I’m an early bird, so I’m up at 4:30 in the morning. I’m down almost 30 pounds in the last year or so. When you have those very serious conversations about high blood pressure, being prediabetic, all the things that come along with that, I tell people all the time to listen to what their doctor says. And from a mental health perspective, I remind people that stress kills, too. We [as elected officials] want to focus on being stress-free.

Q: Any goals for the Peachtree this year?

A: I want to run under 55 minutes, so I’ve been doing a little training. You might want to keep that a secret because I want to make sure I beat the mayor this year. He beat me last year. He doesn’t know this is a contest; I haven’t told him yet. I’m going to text him right now, so he’ll be on notice.