This page contains an overview of the year 1979 in athletics.
|200 m||Pietro Mennea||Italy||19.72||Mexico City, Mexico||12 September|
|800 m||Sebastian Coe||United Kingdom||1:42.33||Oslo, Norway||5 July|
|1500 m||Sebastian Coe||United Kingdom||3:32.03||Zurich, Switzerland||15 August|
|110 m hurdles||Renaldo Nehemiah||United States||13.16||San Jose, United States||14 April|
|110 m hurdles||Renaldo Nehemiah||United States||13.00||Westwood, Los Angeles, California, United States||6 May|
|200 m||Marita Koch||East Germany||22.02||Leipzig, East Germany||3 June|
|200 m||Marita Koch||East Germany||21.71||Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany||10 June|
|400 m||Marita Koch||East Germany||48.89||Potsdam, East Germany||29 July|
|400 m||Marita Koch||East Germany||48.60||Turin, Italy||4 August|
|100 m hurdles||Grazyna Rabsztyn||Poland||12.48||Warsaw, Poland||18 June|
|400 m hurdles||Marina Styepanova||Russia||54.78||Moscow, Russia||27 July|
|Javelin throw||Ruth Fuchs||East Germany||69.52 m||Dresden, East Germany||13 June|
|4 × 100 metres relay||Marita Koch
|East Germany||42.10||Karl-Marx-Stadt, East Germany||10 June|
|4 × 100 metres relay||Christina Lathan
|East Germany||42.09||Turin, Italy||4 August|
- This time did not set a new world record. Rather, it equaled Rabsztyn's existing world record.
- Matti Koskimies (1 January 2012). "Season Bests by Year (Men)". Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- Matti Koskimies (1 January 2012). "Season Bests by Year (Women)". Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- Matti Koskimies (1 January 2012). "World Record Progression (Men)". Retrieved 12 January 2012.
- Matti Koskimies (1 January 2012). "World Record Progression (Women)". Retrieved 12 January 2012.