Although light is the fastest thing in the universe, it doesn't serve as a good symbol of speed because it's hard to physically represent light. There's also the tendency for light to be more associated with Faster-Than-Light Travel, which stretches the Willing Suspension of Disbelief for more "realistic" depictions of speed.
So the next best thing is something most people are very familiar with: lightning (or electricity). As stated by the US National Weather Service, lightning travels at about 1/3 the speed of light, making it a good symbol of speed since it can be drawn, and, because it doesn't move quite as fast as light, it makes a good symbol for Super Speed that isn't completely ludicrous. With this association, you can expect speedsters to move in a manner resembling the movement of electricity, like zigzag patterns, exceedingly straight lines, or jagged arches.
Regularly overlaps with Ride the Lightning, which is using electricity itself as a mode of transportation, and Electric Slide, which is moving along power lines. The characters may or may not have lightning-based powers, or it may just be a visual Motif.
- Black Clover: Luck is known not only for his love of fighting, but also for his speed, particularly when he has his boots made of lightning.
- Laxus from Fairy Tail can turn himself into lightning for a time in order to dodge attacks and quickly close the distance on foes. It's also implied he can use this for high-speed travel, as shown with his Big Damn Heroes moment in the Sirius Island arc where he arrives and blasts his way into Grimoire Heart's airship in a bolt of lightning.
- Killua from Hunter × Hunter uses his electrified aura to move at high speed.
- Lyrical Nanoha
- Fate Testarossa-Harlaown is a Fragile Speedster—the fastest canon character in the series so far, in fact—as well as the wielder of powerful lightning-based magic. Her Speed Stripes when going at Super Speed even have lightning contrails woven into them.
- Fate's adoptive son Erio, while not as fast, also specializes in speed. In fact, he is the only character in the series who has been fast enough to land a direct hit on Fate during a training match.
- Inverted by Victoria Dahlgrün from ViVid, who has lightning magic but is actually the franchise's first Mighty Glacier.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, after Negi learns Magia Erebea and gains the ability to fuse spells into his body, he develops a few ways of doing this:
- Agilitas Fulminis (Shippu Jinrai, "With Lightning Speed") channels the spell Jovis Tempestas Fulguriens (Ikadzuchi no Boufuu, "Windstorm of Lightning"), turning him into a Fragile Speedster with electrified attacks.
- He Astrape Huper Ouranou Mega Dunamene (Raiten Taisou, "Might of the Great Thunderclap") channels the extremely powerful Khilipl Astrape (Sen no Ikadzuchi, "Thousand Thunderbolts") to grant Negi a "Lightning Step" ability, allowing him to achieve bursts of hypersonic speed by transforming into lightning. However, he can't change direction while moving, and after meeting an opponent skilled enough to take advantage of this he develops...
- Tastrapa Huper Ouranou Mega Dunamena (Raiten Sousou, "Might of the Twin Great Thunderclaps") absorbs two Khilipl Astrape spells at once, transforming Negi into a humanoid lightning elemental who can think and react fast enough to keep up with his speed.
- Maken-ki!: Yan-Min is capable of moving so fast, that than even the well-trained eye cannot detect her movement. To them, it's as if she either teleported, or appeared suddenly. All that can be seen is the flicker of lightning she leaves in her wake, which has earned her the title of "Leifu": said to be "as fast as lightning and fierce as a tiger".
- Naruto: while there are many lightning element users in this work, the one that exemplifies this the most is the Fourth Raikage, A. By channeling electricity through his body (in a move called "Lightning Release Armor"), his speed and reflexes would increase tremendously.
- One Piece: Enel, being basically a living lightning bolt, can move just as fast as one.
- Rosario + Vampire: Raika is a thunder beast, and can turn himself into electricity and travel along any conductor at blinding speed. Ruby quickly realizes that Inertia Is a Cruel Mistress and punches him as he comes out.
- The Flash is one of the most iconic examples of this. As a superhero based entirely around his Super Speed in all of his incarnations, he has a lightning bolt as his insignia, and most depictions tend to have him leaving a trail of lightning as he runs.
- Lightning Lad has shown the ability to direct his electricity generation power inward for bursts of super speed, reportedly up to 1/3 the speed of light.
- Zig-Zagged by Shazam. Captain Marvel / Shazam / Billy has a lightning bolt Chest Insignia, can summon and control lightning and has super speed. However, the powers are unrelated — the lightning is inherited from Zeus, and the speed from Mercury. The end result, though, is still a super-speed character with a lightning motif.
- New Mutants character Surge passively absorbs ambient electricity at all times and can discharge it in bursts of super speed.
- Quicksilver is one of Marvel's fastest speedsters and has a lightning motif in his costume.
- Spider-Man's enemy Electro can use his electricity manipulation powers to propel himself over electrical lines and similarly charged surfaces at speeds up to 140 miles per hour.
- While he never had this in the video games, Sonic the Hedgehog (2020) gives the titular hero the ability to generate lightning when he runs. It's because of this he causes a huge blackout across the entire Pacific Northwest.
- In The Flash (2014), all speedsters leave a trail of lightning behind them when they run. With some effort, they can even weaponize this lightning by directing it towards an opponent.
- The song Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas featured the lyrics (and page image quote):
Everybody was Kung Fu fighting
Those kids were fast as lightning.
- Kirby Star Allies: Zan Partizanne, one of the 3 Jambastion Mages, wields lightning power and can move as quickly as lightning flashes.
- In The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, the boss Thunderblight Ganon is the smallest of the main bosses, but is by far the fastest. Its main battle tactic is to zip around the arena with its Flash Step ability, then slash with its Hook Hand. It also has the ability to control lightning, as implied by its name.
- In the Pokémon series, Electric-type Pokemon are generally very fast, though also very frail. Since much of them have high offensive stats, they make great sweepers. There are exceptions, however, such as the Magnemite and Shinx lines.
- Super Robot Wars T: One of Spike Spiegel's quotes when he dodges an attack is "I done handcuffed lightning!"
- Throughout the Super Smash Bros. games, series veteran Pikachu's Up Special, Quick Attack, evokes this trope. Pikachu can quickly zip in a straight line in the direction in which the control stick is tilted, and can perform a second burst in succession when the stick is tilted in a different direction.
- Worm: Battery has the ability to charge up her electrical powers for several seconds to give herself a significant speed boost.
- In the Pixar film Cars, the main character and one of the best racers, Lightning McQueen, evokes this trope right in his name.
- The titular character of Freakazoid! literally transforms into a cartoonish lightning bolt when using his super speed.
- Looney Tunes: In '"Draftee Daffy'', Daffy Duck actually turns into a lightning bolt when running from the little man from the draft board.
- In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Rainbow Dash has a rainbow-colored lightning bolt as part of her Cutie Mark. Fittingly, her special talent is to fly at incredibly high speeds, and her ability to break the sound barrier is seemingly unmatched in Equestria.
- PJ Masks: Connor / Catboy has lightning in his transformation sequence and leaves lightning in his trail when using his super speed.