Hi everyone! I’m Ines, a member of Fast and Female’s Youth Advisory Council (YAC). I’ve…
Fast and Female REAL Role Model, Molly Hurford, shares about her new venture Strong Girl Publishing!
Hi hi! I’m Molly Hurford. I’m an author, journalist and podcaster, and now, the founder of Strong Girl Publishing. On the side, I’m a sometimes-serious athlete, an occasional yoga teacher and running/cycling coach, and a dachshund mom. I have nine books including three in the Shred Girls series out, I write for places like Bicycling Magazine regularly, and my podcasts include The Business of Fitness and The Consummate Athlete. But really, I’m all about my dachshund. And writing and publishing books for young girls to get them excited about sports and physical activity! I’ve been a REAL Role Model with Fast and Female for a few years now—I was introduced to F&F when I moved to Canada from the US eight years ago and fell in love with the mission of bringing more girls into sport.
About Strong Girl Publishing
My mission with Strong Girl Publishing is a two-parter: I want to help girls see themselves in sport and outdoor adventure, inspiring them to try new activities by creating engaging stories around girls in sport; and I want to carve out a space for young women athletes who are looking for a platform to share their voices.
When I was a kid, I wasn’t into sports AT ALL. I was, however, very much into reading—and I was VERY impressionable. I read The Babysitter’s Club, and so I babysat. A few years ago when I started the Shred Girls series, it was because I wanted to create books that would make young bookworms like me see themselves in sport, and maybe get out for a ride. I also wanted to make books that would encourage sporty girls to get excited about reading!
I also know how hard the publishing space is, and most young women athletes don’t have the connections to get traditionally published by a major company (ugh, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard ‘books about girls in sport don’t sell!’). But self-publishing is pretty darn complicated, and can be very expensive if you want to do it well. Enter Strong Girl Publishing. I do believe that there’s a need for books about girls in sport, and I believe there’s a big market for them!
We’re just getting started, so right now I’m focused on bringing out our first round of titles. In addition to my Shred Girls books, I have two new novels that will come out this fall, and two authors including poet and Canadian mountain biker Mackenzie Myatt’s first book of poetry will come out in October as well. We have even more authors and projects that will get announced soon!
I’m also super stoked on the anthology I’m working on, about ‘What I Wish I’d Known.’ So many women have amazing advice and wisdom that they wish their younger selves had access to, and I want to help share that wisdom in the form of an anthology packed with essays, interviews, short stories, and poetry.
What has been your sport and physical activity journey?
I can honestly say that I simply didn’t have one! Or at least, I would definitely have never considered myself an athlete. When I was a kid, I rode bikes and built forts in the woods with my neighbour, a boy my age. And like pretty much every teen girl in the early aughts, I saw Blue Crush and immediately wanted to get into surfing—which I did, despite living in New Jersey. (The Jersey Shore actually has killer surf sometimes!) But otherwise… well, I was the girl who would go to pretty much any length to avoid running the mile in gym class. I was a writer: I started a school newspaper in the seventh grade, I was editor in chief of my high school paper and literary magazine for most of my time in high school. I got into punk rock music and organised poetry slams and wrote and published zines (homemade magazines). In short, I was clearly preparing myself for the book writing and publishing part of Strong Girl Publishing… but the athletic part of the journey hadn’t started yet!
Looking back, I’ve realized that it’s not that I didn’t want to do any sports or activities—I did, but I didn’t feel like I could be a bookworm or a punk while also being an athlete. I was very stuck in those identities.
At the same time, though, I was always a really muscular kid naturally. I was the eight-year-old girl who could do pull-ups in gym class, even if I refused to run the mile! Growing up at a time when very, very skinny and small body
types were ‘in,’ I actually struggled a lot with body image, and I remember wishing, wishing, wishing that I wasn’t built the way I am. Looking back, I feel so sad for that girl! That’s part of why I named Strong Girl Publishing the way that I did, and why in the Shred Girls series, one of the main characters feels that way about herself (and learns to be proud of who she is!). The same is true of my next book, The Strong Girl, which will come out this fall.
Lucky for me, those muscles I didn’t love as a kid made it pretty easy for me when I did eventually decide to start doing something! In my freshman year of college, I read something about how you could feel better and have more energy if you exercised, and since the school I went to had a great gym, I decided to start going there. I would do a lot of my school reading on the stationary bike, and that led to me thinking that a triathlon—something my dad had done back in the 80s—would be a cool thing to try.
Flash forward 17 years and I’ve raced everything from sprint to Ironman distance in triathlon, shifted into bike racing on the road, track, cyclocross course and (very poorly) on the mountain bike. But I found my real passion when I found ultra running on trails. I did my first 100-mile trail race in 2022 (and beat everyone—including the boys!—by 4 hours).
Who have your role models been and how have role models helped you during your journey?
When I was in high school, I wrote really, really tragically bad poetry. (Look, I just said I ran the poetry slam and edited the lit journal. I didn’t say I was a good poet! I don’t have the patience required.) I was, however, a really solid features writer at the school paper. I remember vividly the day my English teacher and I were talking about my writing aspirations, and I was talking about my poetry. She told me that I should try to write fiction based on the people I knew, the people who were part of my life every day. I think about that all the time when I’m developing characters in books now. It’s funny because as I write this, I’m sad for poor little emo Molly being told to cool her jets with the poetry… but she really helped me lean into my strengths!
Athletically, it’s funny because when I got into triathlon and cycling, it was so male dominated. I was the only girl on my collegiate cycling team, and I didn’t get to know many women until I’d been racing for quite a while. But, bookworm that I am, my women role models in sport were ones I read about in books: Ann Transom, the unparalleled ultrarunner that Chris McDougall writes about in Born to Run is someone I channel every time I’m on a start line. And any time I’m struggling mid-race, I think about Julie Moss, one of the first women to race an Ironman, who collapsed twice on her way to the finish line and crawled across the line to take second place. Talk about dedication!
What advice do you have for young girls about sport and physical activity
You don’t need to ‘be an athlete’ or identify as an athlete to do a sport or physical activity. I think that—at any age—we get really wrapped up in ideas around who we ‘should’ be, or thinking that we have to be one thing consistently. But I love that I can be a bookworm now while also being a serious runner and an author and a podcaster and a dog mom, and that I can wear my combat boots and leather jacket with running tights and a technical top. I think we’re much more interesting people when we let ourselves be more like a puzzle than a picture—lots of different pieces fit together to make something that’s uniquely you!
And on a practical note… You may have to try a few activities before you find the one that you love. I still love the idea of being a surfer chick, but to be honest, I was a terrible surfer and I didn’t really love doing it, I just loved the idea of it. Some people love yoga, for others, it’s not their jam. My sister loves the idea of being a runner, but she hates every run that she does. It turns out, she loves long hikes! Try different activities—you will find one that clicks.