Two days after announcing the annual New York Marathon would take place on Sunday as scheduled, Mayor Michael Bloomberg reversed course and canceled the event.

"While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division," he said late Friday in a statement.

The race typically features tens of thousands of runners and attracts some 2 million spectators.

"The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination. We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it," Bloomberg said.

News of the cancelation came hours after the mayor told a press conference that the race would proceed despite criticism of his decision to hold the marathon even as millions of people in the region remain without heat, power and running water.

The race begins in Staten Island, the borough hit hardest by Sandy, which claimed 41 lives in the Big Apple.

Bloomberg's initial determination to press ahead with the marathon brought blistering criticism in the press and social media, with many saying that the electric generators, portable toilets, vehicles and police to be deployed for the race would be better used in the effort to recover from the storm. EFE