Update at 5:17 p.m. ET. Marathon Cancelled:

After receiving withering criticism, officials have decided to cancel the New York City Marathon, the largest 26.2 mile road race in the world.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who had insisted on allowing the marathon to continue, issued a statement saying he did not want to taint the event with shroud of controversy.

"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," Bloomberg said in a statement emailed to reporters. "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."

NBC News points out that just hours earlier, Bloomberg asserted that the marathon would go on.

"If you think back to 9/11, I think Rudy [Giuliani] made the right decision to run the marathon," Bloomberg said. "It pulled people together and we have to find some ways to express ourselves and show solidarity to each other."

The mayor said New York Road Runners would issue more information later for the 45,000 runners.

Our Original Post Continues:

The New York City Marathon, one of the most storied and respected road races in the country, is shrouded in controversy this morning.

Take the top headline in the New York Post this morning: "This is no way to get us up & running."

The headline refers to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's decision to allow the 26.2 mile run through all five New York City Burroughs to go on despite the damage and destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy.

The Post points out that the marathon has set up five 800 kiliowatt generators in Central Park to power things like the race's media tent and crews delivered thousands of bottles of water.

"I am from Coney Island where everything is flooded and underwater," Yelena Gomelsky, 65, told the newspaper. "I live 1 block from the ocean where everything is floating. "[Seeing the generators and water] makes me feel so bad. People have no food, no water, nothing.

"They should make all of these runners bring food and water to people's houses who need it," she added. "They should bring all of these generators to buildings where old people live and give them power."

New York Road Runners, the race organizers, defended the decision to go on with race.

"I understand the controversy completely and respect all the views on this, but any decision that was made by the mayor would have been controversial and to call off the race would have been equally as controversial," NYRR's George Hirsch told The New York Times. "By Sunday afternoon, there won't be any controversy. People will view it as an early step in the city's recovery."

The New York City Marathon is largest in the world with 47,000 runners. On the one hand, canceling a race like this is a big deal. Think about it: Many runners wait years for a spot in the race and they then spend at least 14 weeks training for it. Many of them travel to New York from far away places. The arranged flights and hotels and other transportation.

On the other hand: The race starts in Staten Island, which was pummeled by Sandy. At least 19 people were killed on the island and this morning there was a grim discovery: The bodies of two brothers, 4 and 2, were found in a marsh in South Beach, the Staten Island Advance reports.

Also, remember that putting on a marathon means a huge security presence and the closing of many streets.

Jason Gay, a writer for The Wall Street Journal, who says he loves the race wrote: "Is this race really in the best interest of a damaged city? This is not a playoff game at Yankee Stadium - it's a sprawling, cross-city undertaking."

He goes on to quote State Senator Liz Krueger who said on ESPN: "If we take one police officer, one ambulance or one fire-department staffer to put them on the marathon rather than doing the emergency-response work they are doing, it is not just an outrage - it is an abuse of their responsibilities."

What do you think? Should the marathon proceed?