Rather than being able to take insane amounts of punishment, someone is able to to carry on in a more mundane manner as long as the Rule of Cool, Rule of Drama, or Rule of Funny dictates. For example, police officers in most police procedural who seem to be able to stay awake for several nights and still chase the Villain of the Week, In games it is an Acceptable Break From Reality to keep the game from getting bogged down. Drugs to do this are Bottled Heroic Resolve. If this is a character in general avoiding biological functions, it's Bottomless Bladder. When super heroes don't seem to need sleep, it's a Triple Shifter. If your mounted creature can do this, then it's one of those Automaton Horses. See also Angst? What Angst? for characters who display improbable emotional durability.
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Anime & Manga
- Kakashi Hatake from Naruto was established as having poor stamina, and yet he's been fighting for days in the war arc. Although, to be fair, there are medical ninjas running around the divisions to heal him off-screen, and he has had the entirety of the manga's run (almost three years in-universe) to work out of that handicap. But even when he gets a recharge from the Nine-Tails's chakra, that's only after he and Gai went up against several mind-controlled Tailed Beasts and two of the Big Bads alongside Naruto. And he just keeps on going throughout the remainder of the Final Battle like it's nothing even when that supply starts to run out.
- Regardless of the fact that he's consistently considered to have some of the highest levels of stamina in the series, on top of having the powers of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox to fall back upon, the fact that Naruto fought for about 160 chapters/two days more or less non-stop and with more than half of that time being spent fighting the Big Bads after having just completed some pretty rough training and still not running out of juice until he and Sasuke had their final showdown puts Naruto himself smack dab the middle of this trope.
- Tohma of Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force. This was given a Lampshade Hanging in the third chapter when he realized how he's not tired at all despite running so long while carrying someone on piggyback and using high-level magic. It is later revealed to be an early foreshadowing of his Eclipse infection, which he unwittingly contracted in chapter one and which eventually turns him into a self-repairing Living Weapon.
- Judge Dredd is usually able to go for days without sleep. Of course, sleep machines allow for a full night's sleep in five minutes. It's implied that this can be detrimental to a judge's health and judges must stand down every two weeks and get a full night of natural sleep.
- The excellent running skills of Forrest Gump nets him a spot on Bear Bryant's team and earns him a Medal of Honor in Vietnam when he rescues his entire unit (except for his Black Best Friend Bubba); after Jenny ditches him, he decides to go jogging and inadvertently starts a national trend, not stopping until quite some time later. (In his narrative, he claims to have stopped for food, water, rest, and bathroom breaks, but in the film edits it together so it looks like he just keeps going...and going...and going...)
"That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I'd gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going."
- This is said to be true of aboriginals in The Gods Must Be Crazy 2, where they can keep moving at a decent clip across long distances where Westerners would have stopped after less than an hour.
- In The Graduate, Ben spends the last portion of the movie running like hell to stop his beloved's wedding, basically power-jogging nonstop for ages with only a pause to make a phone call. Nicely led up to throughout the film with repeated mentions of Ben's position in college as captain of the track team.
- In The Two Towers, Aragorn and Legolas seem to be sprinting non-stop across miles and miles of land to chase down the kidnapped Hobbits, with Gimli barely keeping up and heavily winded. In the book, at least, it is mentioned that this is in fact abnormal and not just something they can all do all the time. It is apparently named "The Deed Of The Three Friends" and ballads are sung about it. The book also lets them rest a bit more than the movie, where Gimli states that it's been three days pursuit with no food, water or rest. In the book they at least pause so that Gimli and Aragorn can sleep while Legolas keeps guard, since his Elvish superpowers include the lack of a need to sleep.
- J in the beginning of Men In Black runs down an alien known for its speed, across blocks up a building, and is not winded at all after the chase that left the alien a little tired (somewhat justified by J taking some shortcuts like a bus and a freight elevator). This is part of what gets him into the MIB in the first place.
- Toshiro Mifune's character in the Charles Bronson movie Red Sun spends all day walking across the desert, then says he'll keep watch overnight. When Bronson asks him why he's not going to sleep, he says he's already slept - "While walking". (Bronson does observe the following morning that for a man on watch, he did snore a bit.)
- In Run Fatboy Run, this is how unathletic, heavy smoker Dennis finishes the marathon on a sprained ankle, though it took him about 12 hours longer than everybody else. Fueled by the fact that he had something to prove to himself, to his ex-girlfriend, and pretty much everyone else in his life except his son, who believed in him the entire time.
- In Dragon Bones, Ward stays awake for some two days after a battle, as things keep happening and someone has to keep watch. The other characters lampshade it, and are a bit concerned, as he's just an ordinary human being. Except for a bit of dragon blood He himself knows that it's no good to exhaust himself, but still does.
- In Ranger's Apprentice, there's a note at least once a book that ranger ponies (and ranger dogs) can keep up their special ranger pace all day and not get tired.
- This is the Aiel's hat in the The Wheel of Time. They can keep up with a horse while on foot and can do so for quite a while. (Trained humans can chase an unburdened horse until it dies of exhaustion. Keeping up with a warhorse carrying an armored knight is plausible, though Bad Ass, especially for an entire army with supply lines and logistics to worry about.)
- Robert Langdon from The Da Vinci Code apparently stays awake during the entire length of the book, finally crashing to sleep at the end.
- In addition to his strength and fighting prowess, Fezzik of the novel The Princess Bride has arms that have inexhaustible stamina; the rest of his body can wear out, but his arms are always as fresh as ever.
- The Dresden Files': Harry Dresden seems to fall into this trope under a certain interpretation of it. Most of the books involve him being slowly damaged far past the point normal people would be falling to pieces, and still fighting. By the end of most books he's a wreck, but with the bad guys defeated. He generally recovers but some wounds don't go away. In one book, a physician points out how Dresden's body seems to not retain the wear and tear of his activities the way a normal person's would. Dresden concludes that a wizard's power gives them a very limited Healing Factor, which is probably responsible for their centuries-long lifespan. He can be injured, and doesn't heal any faster than normal, but his injuries can heal completely given enough time; his scar tissue heals at the same rate as normal injury, rather than staying static. The neat bit is that this is biologically plausible; there is a lab-mouse genetic line (known as MRL) that does the same thing.
- The sons and daughters of Oberon in The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny. For example, Corwin and Random once fenced to exhaustion. Most people can fence at full pelt for a handful of minutes. Corwin and Random were still going strong twenty-six hours later. Corwin gave up so he could keep a hot date he had lined up.
- In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the top tier generals are noted for having jaw-dropping levels of endurance. One of the most famous instances is Zhang Fei's duel with Ma Chao—they duel for hours, even calling for torches once it falls dark. They keep going for so long that their seconds in command gets worried and has the armies pull back, at which point both complain that they could have continued fighting.
- Beowulf is remarked as being able to swim for three days and nights underwater to reach the lair of Grendel's mother. This is just one of the hyperbolic superhuman feats attributed to him throughout the poem.
- Justified in The Elenium. After a long day of travel, the knights discover that they are being followed by those who are seeking to kill them. Sephrenia uses her magic to cast a dangerous spell that simulates the effects of a full night's sleep. This allows them all to get to an inn where they can sleep safely. The spell is dangerous because it doesn't actually provide the rest that it simulates, so if used too often it can cause the caster to die from exhaustion.
- In Catching Fire Johanna Mason apparently goes over two days without sleeping at the start of the Quarter Quell.
- In the W-Wing novel Starfighters of Adumar, Wedge Antilles is the senior ambassador-slash-celebrity-Ace Pilot of the New Republic to the eponymous world. His normal duties involve mock dueling with Adumari pilots for several hours, followed by postmortem discussions about their tactics, skills, and concept of honor, followed by politicking over dinner. One day, he goes through this schedule until, at a dinner meeting with the perator (emperor) of Cartaan, he insults the emperor and his plan to Take Over the World, which earns him exile "by gauntlet". He proceeds, along with three of his pilots, to run, sneak, and shoot through half the city to reach a friendly airbase. He goes up in the air and encounters enemy pilots — thirty, against the four New Republic fliers, who are using inferior and unfamiliar equipment — and vapes them all. After that, his fighter too heavily damaged to escape, he sneaks back into the city, links up with a friend of his who happens to be a New Republic spy, is smuggled out of the country, meets with the perator of his new host nation, agrees to help them in their new war against Cartaan, and is fully prepared to plan an invasion in twelve hours and then roar off in his fighter again. Tycho promptly tells him to go to bed.
- In the novelization of Betrayal at Krondor in the Riftwar Cycle, Jimmy and Locklear go for days with little to no sleep thanks to a powder provided to them by a priest. This allows them to ride from Northwarden to the Dimwood at an insane pace and then fight two battles in rapid succession. Shortly after the second battle they collapse from exhaustion. Jimmy later notes that even after he woke up, he was still so tired that he was effectively useless for the next week.
- Shasta of The Horse and His Boy manages a truly impressive miles-long sprint to warn Archenland of an invasion. He was given extra motivation by being chased by the local Jesus-lion (Shasta had no way of knowing that he wasn't hostile).
- The first ten Chrono Hustle stories take place over the course of a few days (from the characters perspectives anyway), but food and sleep are only occasionally mentioned.
Live Action TV
- In The X-Files, Mulder often spends several days doing a stakeout by himself, and the like. He's a chronic insomniac and is rarely seen sleeping in the show's nine seasons. He often goes several days without sleep. The cause for his insomnia is never given, though it likely has something to do with the high amount of stress in his life, his obsessive nature about his cases, and recurring nightmares about his sister's abduction. After Scullly is abducted in season 2, he spends the whole next episode not sleeping (at least a few days). In fact, when a detective suggests he finds a hotel in the area, Mulder says it isn't needed, as he "doesn't sleep anymore". His apartment doesn't even have a bedroom (or bed for that matter) until season 6.
- Law & Order is inconsistent about this. Sometimes the detectives seem to stay up for an abnormally long time; other times, their boss insists they go home and get some rest. Generally speaking, they appear back to back, such that the detectives are up for days and then told to get some rest. In the situations where they are up for abnormally long times, they are (depending on the writers) usually portraying the effects of sleep deprivation accurately: short tempers, lack of ability to focus, and so on.
- The characters of 24 manage without sleep just fine for twenty-four hours plus however long they'd already been up. Speaking of which, season one started at midnight, meaning they were up for more like two days without sleep the first time around.
- In season one, Jack Bauer does find enough time to get a catnap at roughly the seventh episode (when he's holed up in a building with a waitress he's taken hostage). He also finds time to eat a frozen dinner during his debriefing at CTU (in fact, the only other time he's shown eating is at the beginning of the fifth season). Aside from this, however, Jack and every other character on the show can function overnight or forego eating for extended periods of time. This appears to be the reason why most later seasons begin at 7 or 8 AM (making it so that the characters are really only staying up overnight) instead of late hour season starts.
- It's canon in Star Trek that fresh, healthy Vulcans can charge their systems to go for weeks without sleeping. Used in the novels a lot when the crisis lasts for a long time.
- Denobulans (e.g. Phlox in Star Trek: Enterprise) hibernate for a week or two per year, and are otherwise awake all the time.
- Lost episodes 3x21 (The Greatest Hits) through 4x03 (The Economist) take place over a period of three really busy days and all main characters are shown to stay up on both nights with no signs of exhaustion by the end of the third day. Though the very first handful of episodes show a paraplegic man unexpectedly gaining his legs back...
- Elliott from Leverage only sleeps ninety minutes a day.
- Played with on CSI NY, where Mac's been called out several times about his seemingly rare periods of sleep. Jo once had Flack drag him home for some rest. This show seems to ask for it more than the regular CSI, because there doesn't appear to be another shift at the lab, just Mac's team.
- Cirronians in Tracker have a biological adaptation which eliminates the need for sleep. Fans theorize they might go into some kind of meditation state, but it was never made canon.
- Criminal Minds regularly does this. Although the majority of episodes leave periods where one could presume they do more mundane things like eat and sleep, some episodes (such as "Retaliation") has the team working through the night with nary a break and they're none worse the wear for it. The only time the show subverts it is in "The Fisher King, Part 1", and even then, it's only one teammate- Elle Greenaway, just so she could go home and get shot by the UnSub when she tried to sleep.
- The Uncharted series has two incredibly egregious cases:
- Among Thieves has Nate climbing up a train hanging off a mountain after getting shot in the gut, even though he's barely able to stand upright. As soon as it's time for a gunfight, he's perfectly fine. There's no mention of hypothermia, either, even though he's not wearing anything to significantly protect him from the cold.
- In Drake's Deception, Nate gets stranded in the desert, and goes for three days without water. He reaches an abandoned city and can barely muster the strength to enter, but goes right back to normal as soon as bad guys appear for him to shoot at.
- At one point in Sleeping Dogs, Wei gets captured by some goons and brutally tortured, including getting slashed multiple times, having a hammer dropped on his foot, and taking a power drill to the knee. When he wakes up, he can barely move, and only manages to kill two guards by relying on luck and surprise. However, once you open the door to the next room and regain full control, Wei's suddenly back to running, jumping, and fighting as if nothing happened at all.
- This gets even worse in the ending. While crashing through a door, Big Smile Lee blasts Wei in the side with a shotgun. This barely slows Wei down and he's still able to chase after Lee and even make a death-defying leap onto his boat before it escapes. Lee then abandons ship and crashes the boat into a fuel tank and it explodes when Wei is less than ten feet away from it. Despite this, Wei is still able to climb out of the water and fight and kill Lee in one last battle.
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: The Marked One and Major Degtayrev are apparently machines - despite engaging in countless gunfights, being awake possibly for in-game weeks, and dealing with the myriad dangers of the Zone, neither of them show the slightest dip in physical performance. Degtayrev at least has the option to sleep, but without prompting from the player (and there's no benefit beyond fast-forwarding) they can apparently go indefinitely without sleep.
- Averted in Hardcore Mode of Fallout: New Vegas. The Courier does need to sleep, eat, and drink, and going without will degrade your performance and eventually kill you.
- Parodied in the first cutscene of God Hand, where Gene waddles into a town in the middle of the desert howling for water and collapses... then springs right back up when Olivia notices some enemies.
- During the DARE To Resist Drugs and Ninja Violence arc in The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the Doctor realizes that it's been almost two days since he ate or slept while dealing with a random ninja mook. The mook tries to laugh it off, but it's made the doctor a bit cranky.
- Sex comedy division; in Ménage à 3 after a night of mutually satisfactory passion, Peggy wakes Matt with the suggestion that they make it "an even dozen", and he agrees.
- After being forced to leave Azure City, Vaarsuvius of The Order of the Stick stops “trancing,” leaving them rather haggard. This is subsequently revealed to be due at least in part to guilt over surviving the invasion by hiding while their allies were being slaughtered. The fact that V was continually reliving the traumatic event of being able to do nothing while they died led V to conclude trancing was ... not productive.
- Pheidippides was said to have run 150 miles (Athens to Sparta to Marathon) and then 26 miles (Marathon to Athens) to bring word of victory at the Battle of Marathon. The modern concept of the marathon run is named in honor of this achievement.
- This is humanity's "superpower" compared to most of the animal kingdom. While many prey and predator species are great at sprinting, and can reach speeds a human couldn't possibly hope to match without a vehicle, they can only do that for a short time. Humans, meanwhile, have the endurance to just keep going. There are tribes in Africa that hunt by doing this, essentially "chasing" the prey at a brisk walking pace until the target has exhausted itself. In fact, no animal on Earth can outrun a human in long distance running. None.
- One of the few animals that are even in the same league as humans in terms of endurance is the wolf, which is why we domesticated them and turned them into dogs, which we bred to be (by and large) more dogged than their lupine ancestors but still less so than us.
- At least in Africa, where a human's more efficient breathing and cooling systems prevent us from overheating while running.
- See also: Humans Are Special.
- Herschel Walker, former NFL running back, may be the single most determined man on the planet. In place of lifting weights, he chose to use basic push ups and sit ups to keep his body in top form. As of 2010, his daily workout still consists of 3,500 sit ups and 1,000 push ups.
- Just to break that down with some impressive math skills, that means that, assuming he does one sit up every second, he would have to be doing sit ups non-stop, once a second every second, for almost an hour to meet this regimen. Most people don't do that many in a year.
- Dean Karnazes. Just take a look at his article on Wikipedia.
- Horses not only have a unique physiology that allow them to run longer, domesticated, trained horses lack the survival instinct to not run themselves to death if pushed to do so.
- The mission of Apollo 13 resulted in very little sleep for the crew, between the crises that needed to be handled and the extreme cold in the spacecraft. They tried to sleep, but still ended up going far longer than they really should have. Touched on in the film.
- Cliff Young, an Australian potato farmer, ran and won a 544 mile foot race at the age of 61, beating competitors more than half his age while wearing overalls and rain boots. His strategy? While the other runners ran for seventeen hours a day and slept for seven, Young ran at a relaxed pace for five days straight without stopping for sleep or food. He broke the previous record by nearly two days.