The Flash: How Fast Can Barry Allen Run?


If you’ll excuse the obvious pun, one of the most intriguing running subplots in Season 1 of The Flash is that we aren’t sure exactly what Barry Allen’s top speed is. Despite the urging of Harrison “I’m definitely not the Reverse-Flash, nope nothing to see here” Wells, Barry has opened up the throttle gradually, running only as fast as needed to accomplish specific feats — ones he’s not even sure he can do until he tries them.

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Typically, he’s done them with the reassurance of his science buddies Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon, who crunch the numbers for him. Just for kicks, here’s a list of milestones on Barry’s journey up the speedometer:

  • Episode 1, “City of Heroes“: Hits around 700 mph in order to counter the Weather Wizard’s tornado.
  • Episode 5: “Plastique“: Can’t find the exact numbers, but Flash runs fast enough to go up and down the side of a building and run on water for the first time.
  • Episode 6: “The Flash is Born“: Successfully achieves Mach 1.1 (837 mph) in order to punch Girder hard enough to mess with his metal form.

The producers have done a good job communicating the idea that Barry has only scratched the surface of what he can achieve as the Flash.  And Wells seems convinced that whatever his plans for Allen, they require him to run even faster.

Possibly much faster, if the comics are any indication. Jay Garrick, Allen and Wally West (save for a few years when Wally topped out at the speed of sound) coud all hit or exceed light speed, depending on who was writing them at the time. Light speed, by the way, is 671 million miles per hour, so the TV Barry is never going to get there by taking baby steps.

He also might have a practical limitation his print counterpart doesn’t share. The Flash wears his costume on TV at least partially to help protect himself from the effects of this speed, the thought being that either he or the clothes he wears would be somewhat the worse foe wear at super-speed velocities. In the comics, Barry and other Flashes project an invisible aura that serves the same purpose. It’s possible Grant Gustin’s Allen has the same knack and the S.T.A.R. Labs crew just hasn’t figured that out yet. Otherwise, he might need Cisco to whip up something even more durable as he makes the journey from the sound barrier to the light barrier.

Given how the first season has unfolded so far, we might not even learn the answer to our original question until a subsequent season. For now, let’s just say Barry Allen can run fast enough to service the plot, and his true upper limit has yet to be revealed.

Next: Is Harrison Wells the Reverse-Flash?