In his first comments since canceling the race, Bloomberg said Saturday that he believed it could have gone on but the controversy had become a distraction.
"I still think that we had the resources to do both," Bloomberg told WCBS-TV during a visit to Queens. "There are lots of people in this city - some hurt, some not. It's a big part of our economy."
"But it was just becoming so divisive that whether it's a good idea or not, we just don't need the distraction."
To the people who came from all over the world for the race, Bloomberg said he would tell them: "I'm sorry. I fought the battle, and sometimes things don't work out."
As the mayor was speaking, he was met by catcalls from Queens residents angry about the city's response to the storm.
Before Friday's cancellation, Bloomberg had faced criticism from everyone from sanitation workers unhappy that they had volunteered to help storm victims but were assigned to the race, to police union leaders, to the Manhattan borough president to his ally, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Melanie Bright, who went three days without electricity and hot water, said the mayor didn't get it. "He feels like we should carry on with our lives, even though people have lost everything," she said.
In a sign of how swiftly the tide turned, City Hall told local officials well into midafternoon Friday that the race was on, according to a person familiar with the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes conversations.
Ultimately, though, Bloomberg relented and canceled the event.
"We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event — even one as meaningful as this — to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm," he said.
The decision quickly drew praise from some of the same officials who had slammed the marathon schedule hours earlier. The mayor made a "sensitive and prudent decision that will allow the attention of this city to remain focused on its recovery," said Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
But for Eddie Kleydman, motioning toward huge piles of ruined furniture in his Staten Island street, the mayor's last-minute change of heart wasn't enough.
"He's worried about the marathon. I'm worried about getting power," Kleydman said. "So he called it off. He has to come here and help us clean."
Associated Press writers Leanne Italie, Christine Rexrode and Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report.