How Fast Can The Flash Run?

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There are three characters who have claimed the mantle of “the Flash”. Jay Garrick, Barry Allen and Wally West. Wally West is the fastest Flash.

DC Comics introduced us to the idea of “the fastest man alive” in the form of The Flash. He’s known to zip around at an unbelievable speed, and witness moments the average human couldn’t possibly understand or make out with their two eyes. Naturally, the question that creeps into our minds is… how fast can the Flash possibly go?

Can we accurately measure the fastest speeds that the Flash has achieved?

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How Is The Flash So Fast?

DC comics featuring the popular character, The Flash.
DC comics featuring the popular character, The Flash. (Photo Credit : Pixabay)

The Flash can achieve incredibly high speeds by tapping into the “speedforce”. The speedforce is a natural power that exists beyond space and time as we know it. Only by gaining access to this power are the Flash and other heroic speedsters able to run at such a rapid pace.

The Flash moves at such high speeds that he disrupts everything around him and is subjected to enormous amounts of friction due to the speed at which he runs. The speed at which he would collide with the atoms in the air would cause fission and massive explosions, destroying everything around him.

However, the speedforce puts an aura around whoever is tapping into it, protecting them from all these conditions.

Three characters have claimed the mantle of “The Flash” in the DC universe.

After calling themselves the Flash, these characters have also been granted the title of “the fastest man alive.”

How do we measure the Flash’s speed, then? We need to tweak our question slightly and make it more detailed. Hence, the question changes: which of the three Flashes is the fastest?

Also Read: Can The Flash Really Run Up The Side Of Buildings?

Jay Garrick

Jay Garrick, Flash Comics, December 1946.
Jay Garrick, Flash Comics, December 1946. (Photo Credit: Flickr)

Jay Garrick was the first speedster to receive the title of “The Flash.” He got his powers like almost every superhero—a laboratory experiment that went wrong. The explanation provided for Jay Garrick is that he fell asleep in the laboratory and inhaled hard water vapor.

Without using the full extent of the speedforce, Jay Garrick can run as fast as the speed of sound in the air, which is 343 meters/sec.

Also Read: Science Behind The Fastest Man Alive: Usain Bolt

Barry Allen

Bangkok, Thailand - September 23,2018 - A setting display of the Flash, action figure from famous DC comic. - Image(Krikkiat)s
A depiction of Ezra Miller portraying the character of Barry Allen (Photo Credit: Krikkiat/ Shutterstock)

Barry Allen, a forensic scientist working for the police force, got struck by lightning in a laboratory in the presence of a huge mess of chemicals. This gave him abilities like superhuman speed, senses, and reflexes, but most importantly, it established his connection with the speedforce.

The fastest that Barry Allen has gone is the speed of light in a vacuum, which is 300,000,000 meters per second.

Wally West

The Flash, Rebirth#1 depicting The Flash (Barry Allen) in red and Kid flash (Wally West) in yellow, running side by side while conversing.
The Flash, Rebirth#1 depicts The Flash (Barry Allen) in red and Kid Flash (Wally West) in yellow, running side by side while conversing. (Photo Credit: Flickr)

In the comics, Wally West is Barry Allen’s nephew. While visiting the laboratory where Barry Allen got his powers, the accident repeated itself, and Wally was struck by lightning with those same chemicals in the room. This establishes Wally’s link with the speedforce and gives him his powers. Initially, Wally was Barry’s sidekick and was called “Kid Flash”. As events unfolded in the comics, Barry Allen disappeared for a while, and Wally became the Flash. Wally West has managed to go way beyond the speed of light in a vacuum, breaking all the records and establishing himself as the fastest Flash.

What Does This Mean?

Jay Garrick and Superman Racing. Superman is Clearly way faster than him.
Jay Garrick and Superman Racing. Superman is clearly way faster than him. (Photo Credit: Flickr)

As established earlier, Wally is the fastest Flash of the three, and Wally is the Flash most creative in using his powers and understanding the speedforce. Barry initially trained Wally, and with that guidance and his understanding of the speedforce, he was able to reach his maximum potential. Regarding Wally, the comics are very vague in describing his exact speed. There are a few pointers concerning how fast Wally is, but the transition from somewhat reliable to extremely vague. A few examples are:

  1. Wally once evacuated over 500,000 people in 0.00001 microseconds. (Just for a frame of reference, one microsecond is equal to one-millionth of a second. One microsecond is equal to 0.000001 seconds. It takes about 13000 microseconds for the human brain to process what the eye sees).
  2. Wally could outrun the gravitational pull of a black hole. Even light cannot cannot escape that strong of a gravitational pull.
  3. Wally and Superman once had a full conversation about the time it took for a waitress to drop a cup of coffee.
  4. Wally claims he can think at the speed of light and perceive events at an attosecond.

An attosecond is approximately 1*10-18 seconds. An attosecond is one of the smallest units we know for measuring time. In one second, light can go around the earth approximately seven times. In an attosecond, light can only move from one end of a molecule to another. These descriptions make it extremely difficult to even have a rough estimate of how fast the Flash is. The comics, the primary source of our information, also keep changing and contradicting earlier versions!


Regarding the three Flashes, it’s evident that the fastest Flash is Wally West. All the feats mentioned above are what Wally has achieved or done in the comic book world. Compared to the other two Flashes, Wally is miles ahead in speed, creativity, and understanding of the speedforce.

So, how fast is the Flash?

Well, there’s no specific answer to that. An example would be the vague nature of the descriptions mentioned above. The comics have a continuity in their story to maintain, along with new challenges, problems, and situations for the protagonist to deal with. The Flash is as fast as the plot needs him to be. These hints define his speed and limits and are continuously surpassed as the plot advances dramatically!

Last Updated By: Ashish Tiwari

References (click to expand)
  1. The Flash | Official DC Character.
  2. Explained: Femtoseconds and attoseconds.
  3. Brady, Matt. "Science Class: The Flash’s Hypothermia."
  4. Pedler, M. (2009, November). The Fastest Man Alive: Stasis and Speed in Contemporary Superhero Comics. Animation. SAGE Publications.
About the Author

Raag is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Pune (India). He displays a keen interest in almost everything, understanding how things work and what we surround ourselves with, and takes it upon himself to make the acquiring of knowledge through this interest as simple as possible.

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